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The New York Times did not publish a front page with rainbow background and bullet holes the day after the Club Q shooting

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An image circulating on social media purporting to be the front page of The New York Times on Sunday, Nov. 20, 2022, showing a rainbow background with bullet holes, is not what the newspaper published that day.

The image was perhaps most prominently shared by Lance Bass, an openly-gay former member of the boy band NSYNC.

It is presumably meant as a tribute to the victims of a mass shooting at an LGBTBQ night club in Colorado called Club Q.

The image circulating is cut off before the entire height of the supposed page is shown, though it presumably is meant to suggest that the background filled the entire front page not used for the publication title, UPC or other matter.

While the image is striking, it was not what The New York Times published that day.

It’s not clear where the image came from, but it has not been posted on any official NYT avenues as of yet.

First, it’s important to note that the shooting reportedly started just before midnight local time on Nov. 19, 2022. That would have been around 10 p.m. eastern time in New York, where The Times is located.

The New York Times Sunday edition is typically available as early as 9 p.m. local time on the Saturday before the date listed in the flag on the front page of the paper.

Because of this, the Nov. 20 print edition of The Times did not even include any coverage of the shooting, let alone dedicate the entire front page to it. The newspaper did, of course, update its website and digital streams with the news.

The lead story on the Nov. 20 edition of the newspaper, as defined by the publication’s own practice of positioning that story in the upper right of the front page, was about COVID-19 vaccines.

The image notably correctly lists the volume and number of the paper as CLXXII and 59,613, which was the correct serial for that day.

The Club Q shooting did lead the paper’s Nov. 21, 2022, edition, because this would have been written and printed after the shooting occurred. The newspaper devoted a significant amount of the front page to the shooting, but did not fill the entire page with a rainbow background as the viral image shows.

It’s not uncommon for newspapers to eliminate nearly all content from the front page in a manner such as this for major news stories, special events or other purposes.

In some of these cases, newspapers actually have “two” front pages — the one that is truly the front page and visible on newsstands — and one placed on what would technically be Page 3 containing a more traditional layout. In some cases, publications may also post an alternate version of the front page with a large image such as this on digital and social media platforms, but not print it that way.

The faux image being circulated also notably appears to be replicating the metropolitan New York City edition, given the inclusion of “New York”  ahead of the date in at the top of the page. The Times traditionally publishes at least three versions that are printed and distributed in select regions — New York City, nationally and internationally.

The content and layout of each edition can vary from day to day, with New York City-centric stories getting more prominence on the so-called metro edition.

While the shooting is obviously tragic and of national interest, it’s probably unlikely that the New York Times would dedicate the entire front page to the shooting, but even less likely that it would do so for the metro edition given that the shooting happened in Colorado.

It’s worth noting that the Sept. 12, 2001 edition of the NYT — the one published the day after the 9/11 terror attacks — was completely devoted to that story, but did not include any full page tribute such as the rainbow background.